New Zealand

Tony Famison’s 1982 oil painting The Fugitive will be among those sold from the BNZ collection of iconic art. Image / Supplied

The famous multimillion-dollar art collection, owned by the Bank of New Zealand since the 1980s, will be sold to fund a charity fund.

More than 300 contemporary New Zealand paintings, engravings and photographs will be sold by Webb’s at two auctions on 13 and 27 September. Before the sale, some works will be touring in August and September in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.

The collection, which includes works by renowned artists Colin McCahone, Rita Angus, Gordon Walters, Tossa Wulastan, Gretchen Albrecht, Milan Mrkusic, Don Beanie and Ralph Hotter, is expected to raise more than $ 10 million. Proceeds from the auctions will go to fund a charity set up by BNZ to help organizations across New Zealand working in communities. Webb’s also donates a significant portion of its fees from the sale to the new fund.

Oil painting of 1965
Oil painting of 1965 “Golden Center with two elements” by Milan Mrkusic. Image / Supplied

In the early 1980s, renowned art connoisseur and Wellington dealer Peter McLeevy was commissioned by BNZ to assemble an art collection that would feature the best of New Zealand’s contemporary art. On behalf of the bank, McLeugh bought paintings, engravings and photographs between 1982 and 1987, during the economic boom.

The works were planned to be exhibited in the new BNZ center of the bank and other branches across the country. At one stage, the collection, which included sculpture, grew to more than 700 works. But by 2013 the collection had been reduced to 350.

Webb art director Charles Ninove, who worked behind the scenes for months to preserve the collection, said McLeigh decided to create a “weird” collection of New Zealand contemporary art on behalf of the bank.

Cowry, the oil on the board, written by Colin McCahone in 1953, is one of the iconic works of art to be auctioned in September .. Image / Delivered
Cowry, the oil on the board, written by Colin McCahone in 1953, is one of the iconic works of art to be auctioned in September .. Image / Delivered

“In the collection all the best of the best.”

Since then, these iconic paintings have risen in price but gone out of circulation. He expected that many paintings would set record prices, including a number of McConn’s textual works.

“It’s essentially like an Auckland art gallery that opens its doors and says, ‘Who’s offering the most?’

The BNZ will keep a small collection of works of special significance, which will be displayed at the BNZ facilities. BNZ CEO Dan Huggins said the bank has been a proud custodian of the fine art collection since the 1980s.

“But after 40 years we now have the time for this role and to pass the privilege on to others.”

Painting by Gordon Walters, oil on canvas, 1979 Makora.  Image / Supplied
Painting by Gordon Walters, oil on canvas, 1979 Makora. Image / Supplied

The money raised from the auctions will be used to help community groups that are changing the lives of New Zealanders, he said. BNZ is already working with NGOs to help New Zealanders in need. These initiatives included providing interest-free and low-interest loans under the Good Loans scheme, partnering with Good Shepherd NZ and through support for the Habitat Program for Humanity to renovate homes.

Over time, BNZ will invite community groups, organizations, iwi and hapu that improve the lives of people in their communities, to contact the newly established foundation.

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